Wednesday, April 6, 2011


We have completed the installation of the steel for the north side, exterior ramp, mezzanine, interior ramp, east wall, west wall, and south wall. Some of the steel is new, some of it is recycled from the previous QVC walls, and much of it has been left in-place throughout the project. Priming and painting has already started on the eaves and the ceiling inside the building. The north wall was tented and heated while the primer coat was applied. Hopefully warmer temperatures will arrive and tenting will no longer be needed. One would hardly think that the painting of beams and ceiling would be the reason for employee celebration, but for those of us who worked in the old QVC this is momentous. 

The north wall and adjacent ceiling then ...

... and now.

In 1986 the old QVC was listed as one of the properties in the National Register as part of the Dinosaur National Monument Multiple Resources Listing. In January of 2001 the QVC was specifically listed in the National Register as a National Historic Landmark. The latter listing is especially important because it cites the time period 1957-1958 as the “period of significance” for the building. During that time the structure was constructed and first opened to the public. As a result, the recommendations laid out in the Dinosaur Historic Structure Report Quarry Visitor Center(1) relied heavily on the original design as “the look” that needed to be preserved:

Known alterations, implemented after the period of significance, are recommended to be removed. Conversely, known historic … design features are recommended to be restored to, or retained at, their historic 1958 appearance. With that in mind, this report recommends restoring the structure to its initially-constructed appearance, the only variance from the original design being accessibility, egress, and structural treatments.”

These directives caused all kinds of problems, but for the present let’s look at the seemingly insignificant issue of paint colors. As described by Allaback (2, p: 51):

"The "finish and color schedule" for the visitor center paints a colorful picture of the building's original interior surfaces. The visitor gallery walls and trim were surf green and the ceiling vernal green. The lobby was surf green with varnished birch trim, and the rotunda and stairway were also green. Offices had walls painted starlight blue and honey beige. Less significant spaces, such as corridors, vestibules, and storage spaces, were tusk ivory. These brightly painted surfaces were intended to relieve the monotony of the valley's gray surroundings and, perhaps, create the effect of an oasis in the desert."

Oddly, this “oasis imagery” was lost on most employees. I remember the faded blue and puke surf green when I came to Dinosaur in 1979. I assumed they were the result of poorly thought out painting schemes and nothing more than a hodgepodge of crappy colors. Over the years, walls were covered with shelves for books, specimens, and storage. Walls were replaced, removed, or installed. Eventually many of these colors were replaced with white or some variant of that.

A stand of majestic desert rose beams on the east wall of the QVC support the vast expanse of desert rose ceiling and eaves.
Who would dare go Behind the Pink Door?
So after the QVC was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2001, movement started to return to the original “oasis” color pattern. The worst result of this was the painting of many of the beams of the QVC and the ceiling of the exhibit area over the cliff face a pink color. The preservationists told us this was actually a color properly described as “desert rose” but nearly everyone at the Monument simply rolled their eyes and referred to as “that pink”. It was, quite simply, pretty awful. Many of the photos in past blogs show the remarkable expanses of “desert rose” in the old QVC.

With the destruction and removal of the rotunda and administrative wing, it is no longer possible to retain the 1957-1958 appearance and, thankfully, we are liberated from the oasis diktat. Sane colors will be part of the new interior, allowing the visitor to focus on the quarry face without being distracted by an immense framework of glaring pink beams and window frames. So the simple act of priming and painting in the QVC is more momentous that one might think.

Honestly, does this look "gray and monotonous" to you?

While I’m ranting, I’ll also take exception to the above cited statement that “These brightly painted surfaces were intended to relieve the monotony of the valley's gray surroundings and, perhaps, create the effect of an oasis in the desert.” When I look around at the landscape surrounding the QVC, I see the golden buff Navajo Sandstone, the intense brick red of the Carmel Formation, both the brown and golden river sandstones of the Morrison Formation, the variegated maroon and grey banded mudstones in the Morrison and Cedar Mountain formations, and the shimmering silver of the Mowry Shale, to name just a few. So the landscape is hardly gray and monotonous. I guess some people just can’t see that. Then again, the old ramp leading into the second floor of the rotunda was supposed to be an architectural element reminiscent of the tail of a sauropod dinosaur, one of the common residents of the Carnegie Quarry. Funny, I thought it was simply a ramp to get people into the building – what an ignorati.

Practitioners of the dubious science of color psychology claim that the color pink has a calming effect (3). However, this is apparently only and initial reaction, because when used in prison, inmates often become more aggressive as they become accustomed to the color (3, 4). While employees at Dinosaur didn’t become more aggressive with exposure to pink….er “desert rose”, one of the long term effects of exposure is that we tended to look down at our feet rather that looking at anything above shoulder height.

Amusingly enough, the belief in the calming effects of pink has also been used in college athletics. As recounted at one website (4):

University of Hawaii associate head coach George Lumkin was a member of the 1991 staff that saw visitor locker rooms at Iowa and Colorado State painted pink in the belief that the color made players passive. Now the WAC has a rule that a visiting team's locker room can not be painted a different color than the home team's. In other words, it can be pink, black or any color of the rainbow, as long as both locker rooms are the same color.

(1)Dinosaur Historic Structure Report Quarry Visitor Center

(2) Allaback, S. 2000. Chapter 1. Quarry Visitor Center, Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, Utah. in: Mission 66 Visitor Centers: The History of a Building Type. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships, Park Historic Structures and Cultural Landscapes Program, Washington, D.C.: pp. 39-66.



Photos: NPS


  1. Sorry to see the ignorant forces of mediocrity and design by democracy win out on this. The new color scheme is bland, just like the color of gray stucco that's so popular on modern McMansions. With the new no-color-scheme and loss of the rotunda, you've succeeded in transforming a cool 1950's vintage landmark into little more than a shelter.

    I'll be posting a visual rebuttal to the the bland warm gray of bureaucracy in my own blog. It will feature a classic coral color Chevy redone in nice inoffensive gray. Who could drive a color color car? Gray's so much safer.

    I hope groupthink doesn't get applied to other national landmarks. I can imagine "lightening up" the arts & crafts era lodges and cabins from the 20's and 30's. The colors of that era are so dark and earthy, after all.

    And you folks haven't just neutered the color scheme, in complete "tone-blindness" you also lost the dark vs light tone contrasts that made the building's bones stand out from the rest of the structure. The result is the ultimate monotonony, not just of color but of tone. Not even black and white photos of the redone structure will have any character. I'm sure this is an economy move — one color of paint is a lot cheaper to apply, aesthetics be damned.

    This is what happens when bureaucrats, politician, and scientists ignore those with the talent, taste, and sense of history.

  2. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. However, at the most fundamental level, the QVC was in fact, a shelter --- a protective shelter for the very resource for which the Monument was originally established. Its primary purpose was to protect the in-situ exhibit of dinosaur bones as they were exposed by excavation. It also provided a lab, storage space, and exhibit space, but all those functions were tied to the deposit of bones. The design of that shelter may have been innovative, meritorious, award winning, and ground breaking --- but that’s secondary to the protective function. Without the quarry the building would never have been built.

    Reading Allaback’s chapter on the QVC in her Mission 66 book makes it clear that the building began experiencing shifting, cracking walls, etc. only months after it was opened. Very substantial sums of money were spent over the years to try and stabilize, fix, and ultimately just slow down the rate of building degradation. Virtually the entire building was in danger of imminent collapse when it was suddenly closed in 2006. So while innovative, the building was in many ways a failure even as a shelter.

    Preservationist forces within the NPS wanted any repairs to the QVC to use as much original material as possible to be used and the building re-built to look identical to the 1958 structure. Given that such design and materials had been a failure, it seems ridiculous to spent more money to repeat those problems. Other building design schemes were discussed, but it was only when we agreed to reduce the QVC to just the protective structure over the bones that objections to modifying the building relented. I have discussed this several different times on this blog.

    The primary function of the QVC is as a shelter to protect the bones. When preservation of the structure and design put the resource at risk the resources should always win. To care more about the building than the bones is to have the tail wagging the dog. We didn’t ignore “those with the talent, taste, and sense of history”, we just wanted a building wouldn’t collapse onto the dinosaur bones.

    As for the color schemes, those who worked in the building almost universally hated them. Maybe they were conceptually great but they were terrible to be around all the time. At any rate, I invite you to visit when the building is reopened and maybe withhold judgment until you see the entire structure, inside and out, in the context of the quarry sandstone and its treasure of bones. Things might look a bit better than some small photos of parts of the repainted inside posted on the web.

    Like I said, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. This is mine.

  3. Quote:
    This is what happens when bureaucrats, politician, and scientists ignore those with the talent, taste, and sense of history.

    You may have the "talent of history", but you need to work on your grammar skills!

    Seriously, anyone who puts forth an argument that depends on his having better taste than another is not convincing. You made one interesting point about the contrast of the building color against its background--I would not mind reading more about that.

  4. I'm entitled to my opinion also, and I disagree that the primary function of the building was to protect the quarry face. If that were the case, there would have been no rotunda. Also there would have been a protective structure over the dinosaur trail. The fossils there have survived all these decades without a protective structure.
    The building was designed to protect visitors from sun exposure while examining the wall. Some come from around the world to see the exhibit and have no chance to do so until they are old and often decrepit. My understanding is the fossils are now silicon sand impregnated and are quite stable all without a protective structure.
    I finally got to see the monument a few years ago, after having wanted to visit my entire lifetime. I got there and the structure was closed. I had to sneak around hiking from the highway to the back side of the mountain to peer into the glass window to see what I could. I'll likely not have a chance see the wall. As an American I think this is sad.
    And I find the evidence that the last living dinosaurs were here 65 million years ago is unconvincing. It is partly based on trilobites in layers dated that way, but trilobites are also not that old--horseshoe crabs still exist today and in their developmental stages are virtually indistinguishable in gross morphology to fossilized trilobites.
    Richard Sauerheber, Ph.D.